Just in Time to Help Rockland County with these New Taxes
Rockland County Times Staff Editorial
Did you know, Rockland County, that in 1986 our state legislators did something very useful for us here in the Hudson Valley and passed a law that said any of the outlying counties which wished to withdraw from the MTA and create their own transit authorities could do so? You can look it up on the Internet and see the New York Times article for yourself!
Our legislature voted unanimously to withdraw in 1988, only to be muscled out of the plan by Democratic Governor Mario Cuomo, who was able to politically influence Democratic County Executive John Grant and the Democratic majority in the Rockland County Legislature.
Former Republican leader of the County Legislator Frank Fornario was in the legislature at the time.
“We had all the calculations. We had contracts, we had proposals, we had everything,” to set up a new Rockland County Transit Authority, Fornario said. According to Fornario the Democrats settled for a few million dollars in givebacks from the state instead. In reality, Fornario suspects a back-room deal with Cuomo must have been made.
Now Mario’s son Andrew is equally sympathetic to the MTA, even in a year when budget cuts are on the table, Andrew voted to increase MTA funding by hundreds of millions.
A Rockland County Transit Authority was in the works in 1988 and wow what an opportunity we missed out on. Currently the MTA drains at least $50-60 million more in taxes out of Rockland County every year than a RCTA would have.
The MTA increased its extreme taxation on Rockland County in 1986, prompting the state to allow Rockland and other counties to leave the authority. The legislators didn’t know then what a mess they’d be getting into by staying. They didn’t know how extreme the state would become in its mandate that Rockland subsidize the subway systems of New York City. It was a new thing. Kind of like a 1 percent sales tax…next thing you know it’s 4 percent. Funny how the government works.
Along with Fornario one of the biggest boosters of the project to leave the MTA was and still is the Rockland County Times’ own publisher emeritus Armand Miele. Even before he began campaigning to remove the illegal Spring Valley toll, an effort that ultimately proved successful thanks to his hard work and research, Miele had been hammering away at the unfair and possibly illegal MTA taxes. In 2012, the MTA now incredibly has eight or nine different taxes on Rockland County, all to subsidize New York City subways and busses.
Last week County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef called the Rockland County Times to complain that it was unfair for Miele to say in a recent column that he has a conflict of interests when it comes to the MTA. He accused publisher Armand Miele of not following the facts.
But what about these facts:
– Is it not a fact that John Grant and the legislature’s decision to keep Rockland in the MTA has cost the county hundreds of millions of dollars, at least?
– Is it not a fact that every time the topic has been brought up, Mr. Vanderhoef has implied that leaving the MTA is impractical or impossible, even though in the late 80s the legislature already had solid plans to do so?
– Unless he is simply ignorant of the situation, who is twisting Mr. Vanderhoef’s arm to do nothing about the MTA, if not his friends in Albany or New York City?
As it stands, Rockland County will be fortunate to ever get another opportunity to leave the MTA. Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski has been good enough to put forth state legislation giving Rockland an out, even though his father is one of those who followed Cuomo’s dictates and kept Rockland in the authority. Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee and Senator David Carlucci have also been receptive to the idea. Ultimately, however, it will take a long time to regain the political opportunity that Rockland had in 1988.
If Vanderhoef had only been working on it, for us, his constituents, all these years, things might have been different by now. You see, in 2001, the Rockland County Legislature again passed a law allowing for the creation of a RCTA, after again studying it. Vanderhoef did nothing about it. He did not put it on the governor’s desk, he did not campaign on it. Like John Grant before him, he settled for a few million dollars in givebacks. Unlike Grant, he added the line that it is impossible for Rockland to leave the MTA.
Finally in 2010 Vanderhoef authorized ANOTHER study into our transit situation, including the possibility of leaving the MTA. Let us tell you folks, one thing you get used to covering county government is seeing the government repeatedly study the same issues each decade and often take no action and basically forget about their past studies. So, instead of spending $500 to pull up all the old files and old studies, the county spent tens of thousands on a new study. The study was supposed to be released to the public about a year ago.
It still has not been released. Asked in a press conference six months ago about the already six month overdue study, Vanderhoef said leaving the MTA is impossible.
Then two months ago the commissioner in charge of the study (tick tock, tick tock, we’re waiting) Thomas Vanderbeek, Planning and Public Transportation, contradicted his own boss, and said his study will include positively addressing the possibility of leaving the MTA. We still haven’t seen the study, but what’s the big mystery? Rockland had this figured out in 1988.
We’re just getting started Rockland County. We plan to fill you in on little secrets each and every week. Keep reading the Rockland County Times, you’ll get the truth here.